An unnamed contributor wrote:
On Friday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it would be issuing a certification to a new nuclear reactor design, making it just the seventh that has been approved for use in the US. But in some ways, it's a first: the design, from a company called NuScale, is a small modular reactor that can be constructed at a central facility and then moved to the site where it will be operated.
[...] Once complete, the certification is published in the Federal Register, allowing the design to be used in the US. Friday's announcement says that the NRC is all set to take the publication step.
The NRC will still have to weigh in on the sites where any of these reactors are deployed. Currently, one such site is in the works: a project called the Carbon Free Power Project, which will be situated at Idaho National Lab. That's expected to be operational in 2030 but has been facing some financial uncertainty. Utilities that might use the power produced there have grown hesitant to commit money to the project.
First Major Modular Nuclear Project Having Difficulty Retaining Backers
US Gives First-Ever OK for Small Commercial Nuclear Reactor
The US Government Just Invested Big in Small-Scale Nuclear Power
Safer Nuclear Reactors on the Horizon
« MIT Engineers Develop Stickers That Can See Inside the Body | It Doesn't Matter Much Which Fiber You Choose – Just Get More Fiber! »
Nuclear reactors are seen emotionally as risky due to a few major accidents, but new technologies are coming which will potentially reduce the risks associated with it dramatically.
Commercial reactors have used the same fuel for decades: small pellets of uranium dioxide stacked inside long cylindrical rods made of a zirconium alloy. Zirconium allows the neutrons generated from fission in the pellets to readily pass among the many rods submerged in water inside a reactor core, supporting a self-sustaining, heat-producing nuclear reaction.
Trouble is, if the zirconium overheats, it can react with water and produce hydrogen, which can explode.
To reduce this risk,
[m]anufacturers such as Westinghouse Electric Company and Framatome are hastening development of so-called accident-tolerant fuels that are less likely to overheat—and if they do, will produce very little or no hydrogen. In some of the variations, the zirconium cladding is coated to minimize reactions. In others, zirconium and even the uranium dioxide are replaced with different materials. The new configurations could be slipped into existing reactors with little modification, so they could be phased in during the 2020s.
Core testing of some of these options is already underway and would have to be successful and regulatory hurdles overcome. Additionally, some of the options actually improve efficiency (and consequently cost-effectiveness) of plants. Sadly, 'Too cheap to meter' remains well off the table.
Modern plants, such as are being deployed by Russia both at home and abroad, now include
“passive” safety systems that can squelch overheating even if electrical power at the plant is lost and coolant cannot be actively circulated. Westinghouse and other companies have incorporated passive safety features into their updated designs as well.
Amid the coronavirus lockdowns around the world, one of few positive pieces of news we've heard is that carbon emissions have dropped dramatically. The clearer skies and cleaner air have led to a renewed vigor behind calls for retiring fossil fuels and investing more heavily in renewable energy. Proponents of renewables tend to focus on solar and wind as the best green energy sources, leaving out a lingeringly controversial yet crucial player: nuclear power.
Last week, the US Department of Energy (DOE) shone a light on nuclear's potential in the most effective possible way: by dumping a bunch of money on it. The DOE launched its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to the tune of $230 million. That sum is broken down into $160 million for scientists currently working on nuclear reactors that could be operational in 5 to 7 years, and another $70 million for additional research and development down the road.
For the first time, U.S. officials have approved a small nuclear power plant design.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission [(NRC)] on Friday approved Portland-based NuScale Power's application for the small modular reactor that Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems plans to build at a U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho.
The small reactors can produce about 60 megawatts of energy, or enough to power more than 50,000 homes. The proposed project includes 12 small modular reactors. The first would be built in 2029, with the rest in 2030.
NuScale says the reactors have advanced safety features, including self-cooling and automatic shutdown.
"This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire U.S. nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow," said NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins in a statement.
The cooperative pushing the effort will next need to submit an application to the NRC for a combined construction and operating license and expects this to be ready within two years.
Also at Ars Technica.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Earlier this year, the US took a major step that could potentially change the economics of nuclear power: it approved a design for a small, modular nuclear reactor from a company called NuScale. These small reactors are intended to overcome the economic problems that have ground the construction of large nuclear plants to a near halt. While each only produces a fraction of the power possible with a large plant, the modular design allows for mass production and a design that requires less external safety support.
But safety approval is just an early step in the process of building a plant. And the leading proposal for the first NuScale plant is running into the same problem as traditional designs: finances.
The proposal, called the Carbon Free Power Project, would be a cluster of a dozen NuScale reactors based at Idaho National Lab but run by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, or UAMPS. With all 12 operating, the plant would produce 720 MW of power. But UAMPS is selling it as a way to offer the flexibility needed to complement variable renewable power. Typically, a nuclear plant is either producing or not, but the modular design allows the Carbon Free Power Project to shut individual reactors off if demand is low.
But keeping a plant idle means you're not selling any power from it, making it more difficult to pay off the initial investment made to produce it and adding to the financial risks. Further increasing risk is the fact that this is the first project of its kind—the NuScale website lists it as "NuScale's First Plant." All of this appears to be making things complicated for the Carbon Free Power Project.